Web site pays HK users to look at ads

You may soon be able to get paid for looking at online advertising if Hong Kong-based AdsHouse.com has anything to say about it.

Usually, advertisers will pay a Web site a fee for the number of "eyeballs" it directs to the advertiser's site. AdsHouse.com, which had a preliminary launch last month, says it's cutting out the middle man by paying those eyeballs directly.

AdsHouse.com claims that Hong Kong consumers who sign up as members with the start-up Web portal, can be paid as much as HK$1.10 (14 US cents) per ad. How much a member is paid depends on how much they use interactive features that will be built in to the ads.

AdsHouse.com founder Gary Ho declined to say what those interactive features may be, only that some of them have never been used before. But the most innovative aspect of the company's site is based on sound economic principles, Ho says.

Historically, dealing "with the supply of advertising has been no problem at all," Ho said. But creating effective online advertising has been a sticking point, since people learn from infancy to avoid advertising if possible.

"We're trying to create a demand curve so people want to watch advertising," Ho said.

Users who register as members of AdsHouse.com give a mailing address in addition to their names and some other basic information, including interests and hobbies. If they look at ads on the site, the company will send a check in the mail every two months, Ho said. Points can also be accumulated for prizes.

Though the company won't will not sell any member data, it will use broad statistics to appeal to advertisers, Hoe said.

However, AdsHouse does entice members to help build up its audience by paying members HK$1 for each referral who joins, and if the referral brings in an additional new member, the first member gets HK$.50. The referral payments stop two more steps down at HK$.10.

Ho said he and his partner, who started the five-person company with their own money, at first feared they would get the wrong kind of members. "We didn't want to have street bums or a flock of primary school students joining," Ho said.

But so far they have been pleasantly surprised. Member statistics show most are professionals between the ages of 20 and 40.

A full-fledged site, in English and traditional Chinese characters, will be launched in March with ads, news, weather, financial information, and customized content targeted at each user. Memberships are already available. Each part of the site will have four or five ads, which will be different from standard banners, Ho said.

Future value-added services may include e-mail and online purchasing capabilities, Hoe added.

For the time being, AdsHouse won't accept members from outside Hong Kong, because it won't deliver checks outside the territory. However, Ho said he would like to expand to other areas, including mainland China.

As for members accosting friends and family via e-mail to enlist, Ho said that is up to the users themselves.

"If the user knows that his friends will find it obnoxious for him to contact them, he shouldn't do it," Ho said.

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